Manufacturers Go Green - August/September 08

By Darius Helm, Brian Hamilton and Anne Harr

It’s been about a decade since the carpet industry started incorporating sustainable concepts into manufacturing models. More recently, manufacturers in other flooring categories have been following suit. The last several years have seen some remarkable breakthroughs and innovations that are not only transforming the flooring industry but also serve as models for manufacturers in general.

The architecture and design community, home builders, leaders in the carpet industry and visionary end users have been among the vanguard of this movement, and now consumers are also turning their focus toward sustainability. Recent data suggests that despite the current economic downturn the drive towards greening the residential market is building momentum.

While the largest manufacturers have been able to leverage their might to make the biggest leaps toward more sustainable models—like, for example, Shaw’s purchase of Evergreen Nylon Recycling or Milliken achieving carbon negative status in part because it owns hydroelectric plants and a forest—many of the smaller producers have had to scramble and work that much harder just to remain competitive. On the carpet side, many of the small mills have relied on purchasing green products from fiber and backing suppliers. Nevertheless, they remain at a disadvantage, and only time will tell how this impacts their businesses down the road.

So while the sustainability highlights in this article focus on the bigger producers, it’s essential to remember that most of the players in this industry, big and small, are doing what they can to help build a greener flooring industry.

Interface Inc. holds a special position in the industry by virtue of being the first manufacturer to make sustainability its mission. Over ten years ago, chairman Ray Anderson took stock of his company and its role in the world, and, making the decision to navigate by a new star, charted a course toward a more sustainable future. Now, nearly halfway to Mission Zero, the firm’s commitment to a neutral environmental footprint by 2020, Interface Inc. continues to make huge strides toward that goal.

Interface Inc. has two global flooring businesses headquartered in the U.S., LaGrange, Georgia’s InterfaceFlor, and Bentley Prince Street, based in City of Industry, California. While both benefit from Interface Inc.’s green technologies, each business is constantly developing its own sustainable measures.

The biggest news over the last year has been the development of a low energy system of reclaiming and reusing nylon 6,6. In the fall of 2007, the firm launched a program to shave face fiber from reclaimed carpet through a clean separation technology with less than 2% contamination. Universal Fibers then takes the nylon 6,6, remelts and reextrudes it, with no loss in performance characteristics, to create a stream of reclaimed nylon fiber that InterfaceFlor and Bentley Prince Street then use to make new carpet.

Last year, most of that fiber was fairly dark—since the remelt process does not remove dyes—resulting in higher recycled content for darker carpets and much lower content for lighter tones. But as the program has developed, Universal’s filtering process has managed to turn the dark fibers into an almost silver color and make milkier tones from the lighter fibers, which has greatly expanded the range of the recycled nylon 6,6. Helping the process along is the fact that most of the reclaimed carpet is from the residential market, where lighter colors are much more common.

At NeoCon earlier this summer, InterfaceFlor showcased 25 colors made with post consumer nylon 6,6 and by the end of this year there will be 50. Post consumer content now ranges from 10% to 30%. This year, about half a million pounds of reclaimed product will be processed through the Universal partnership, and within the next three to five years, that number will probably climb to an annual rate of five million pounds.

All of the firm’s 19 new products unveiled at NeoCon feature post consumer content in both yarn and backing, and going forward, all new products must contain post consumer content.

The firm is already looking to partner with other yarn vendors for the same process, in part to make use of the nylon 6 waste stream it collects through its reclamation program.

InterfaceFlor’s Cool Blue recycling program, which converts a range of reclaimed backings into GlasBac RE, produced 1.4 million square yards of product last year and is on pace to go over 2 million this year, before ramping up hugely next year for production closing in on 6 million square yards. 

At the same time, reclamation numbers have been climbing at an accelerating pace. Interface Inc.’s LaGrange based reclamation program took back 27 million pounds of carpet last year, up from ten million in 2006, and should hit 40 million pounds this year. The firm is currently looking at setting up more reclamation facilities across the nation, probably starting in California.

Bentley Prince Street’s operation is the only carpet mill with LEED Existing Buildings certification, having attained a Silver rating last October, helped by elements like the firm’s 100% renewable electrical energy program, which includes a 100 kilowatt hour solar array, its internal recycling program, and an on-site waste program with a 95% diversion rate.

As of last February, all of the firm’s standard tile and broadloom products are part of BPS’ Cool Carpet program—third party certified as carbon neutral with zero net greenhouse gas emissions through the entire lifecycle of the products.

At the beginning of this year, BPS started producing its carpet tile at its California facility, using a thermoplastic backing created through a high speed process that offers reductions in both material and energy use. The NexStep cushioned backing is standard on the firm’s tile products, but starting this fall the firm will also offer Encore RC, a thermoplastic hard back that will include 20% post consumer content.

The firm is also now offering Contact Release, a backing system using the ingenious Free Lay technology that allows for carpet to be installed without traditional adhesives or tackstrip. Free Lay is a thin layer of acrylic polymer applied to the attached polyurethane backing that bonds carpet to any clean, smooth, dry surface for easy installation and also easy removal. Contact Release is available on all of the firm’s broadloom products.

At the beginning of this year, Bentley Prince Street became a founding reporter for The Climate Registry, which was established to measure and publicly report greenhouse gas emissions, using the internationally recognized greenhouse gas measurement standards of the World Resources Institute and the World Business Council on Sustainability. There’s a good chance that The Climate Registry will become the standard of the next administration for regulating greenhouse gas emissions.

Milliken Carpet, also based in LaGrange, Georgia, makes both carpet tile and broadloom, as well as residential rugs. The firm is part of the bigger Milliken & Company, which also makes apparel fabrics, automotive parts and a range of chemicals, including carpet precursors. The entire company has been certified as carbon negative, and all of its products have been certified carbon neutral, by the Leonardo Academy.

Any time a customer wants its Milliken products to be recognized as carbon neutral, including when the firm contributes credits to GreenBuild to offset the carbon load, those credits are retired and no longer contribute to Milliken’s overall carbon profile.

Milliken achieved the company wide carbon negative status without buying any carbon credits. Instead, the firm used its certified forest management program covering its 140,000 acres of forest and its use of alternative energy through its hydroelectric plants. Also, Milliken, like Interface, uses methane from the LaGrange landfill, and it recently reached an agreement with South Carolina’s Spartanburg County to use its landfill methane to replace its use of natural gas at its Dewey chemical facility.

The firm currently uses a very conservative estimate to declare that it’s sequestering 12 times the amount of CO2 that it emits, and that includes electricity it buys from regional grids. 

In addition, Milliken is aggressively working to reduce emissions, and has already reduced emissions by 22% in the last five years.

According to the firm, reclamation last year rose to 8 million pounds, about three times the volume of the previous year. Most of that came from the firm’s ReUse program that recycles product, with only 3% to 5% going as waste to energy through cement kilns in local markets.

Shaw Industries, one of the green leaders in the flooring business, was recognized by CARE as the 2007 Large Recycler of the Year for collecting over 100 million pounds of carpet last year, the first full year of the firm’s Evergreen Nylon Recycling operation. Overall, the carpet industry reclaimed just under 300 million pounds, so a third of that passed through Shaw.

The Evergreen facility, which reduces used nylon 6 to caprolactam and repolymerizes it to make new nylon 6, has become a big player in the recycling business. However, a shaft that failed in one of the reactors late this spring, just before a scheduled shutdown, kept the plant offline for most of the summer. The problem has since been fixed and the facility should be back to full strength before the fall.

Shaw has continued to focus on sustainable strategies. About a year ago, the firm hired Rick Ramirez, who has 30 years of experience in the chemical industry, as its vice president of sustainability and environmental affairs, and last April, the firm kicked off its growth and sustainability council, made up of 16 key Shaw executives, to shape and refine sustainability strategies going forward. And earlier this summer, Shaw Industries became a founding reporter of The Climate Registry, to which it will report greenhouse gas emissions.

The firm has committed to several key public goals, including a 25% reduction in energy intensity (BTUs per pound of produced product) over the next decade, starting from 2007, and a 25% reduction in water intensity over a five year period—from 2006 to 2011. According to the firm, water intensity has been reduced 45% since 1999. Also, the firm will in the near future come up with a timeline for its zero waste to landfill goal—that timeline will fall within ten years.

In 2006, Shaw took its EcoWorx carpet tile technology to the broadloom side, and the firm has refined the broadloom product since then. EcoWorx broadloom is made at a facility in Cartersville, Georgia, and comes with an environmental guarantee to take back the product. Earlier this year, the firm manufactured its one millionth yard of the cradle to cradle broadloom. For now, EcoWorx broadloom is a commercial product, but it may end up in the residential market as well.

Last month, Shaw announced an initiative to use biodiesel from local cooking oil to help run Plant 65 in Andalusia, Alabama, investing in a unit that can process 100 gallons of biodiesel in 48 hours. Biodiesel burns up to 75% cleaner than conventional diesel and adds no CO2 to the atmosphere. The firm is also looking at a landfill methane project and is examining options for solar power for its California operations.

Another big player in the greening of the flooring business is Mohawk Industries, which is also the biggest recycler of plastic bottles in the nation, using most of it to make face fiber for residential carpet. Like Shaw, Mohawk recently created a sustainability council—comprising members of global operations from all is business units.

Numbers are still pending for 2007, but in 2006 the firm diverted nearly three billion pounds of material across all business units, which includes hardwood, laminate, ceramic and carpet.

Last fall, Mohawk started operations at its GreenWorks recycling center in Eton, Georgia. The facility brings in largely residential carpet from a range of sources, processing nylon 6, nylon 6,6, polyester and polypropylene, and outputs densified nylon 6 and 6,6 pellets that are sold to the plastics industry, mostly for molded plastic applications.

It took several months to fine tune the operation, which is a series of specialized processing machinery, and bring the plant up to proper efficiency. The work seems to have paid off, and the plant is steadily building capacity. The operation is now operating at a quarter of its capacity, and the only thing slowing it down is demand.

The reclaimed polypropylene is recycled into Mohawk’s thermoplastics backings. GreenWorks also features a patented process for recycling and reusing latex and calcium carbonate as new filler for backings. All the material that comes into the GreenWorks center has a diversion stream.

Mohawk’s residential carpet offering includes broadloom made with SmartStrand, a PTT fiber from Dow with 37% biobased content, derived from corn. And in other biobased news, last year the firm ran its Dublin, Georgia carpet tile facility on yellow grease, a heavy oil derived from chicken fat.

Mohawk, the biggest flooring producer in the world, recently signed on with EcoScorecard and will launch the program at GreenBuild in November (for more on EcoScorecard, see Certifying Sustainability on page 54). The program will cover the firm’s commercial carpet brands.

Another green leader is Tandus, which sells commercial carpet tile, six foot goods and broadloom under the C&A, Monterey and Crossley brands. Tandus has one of the oldest and biggest reclamation programs in the industry, and last year total diversion weight passed the 133 million pound mark. The firm reclaims and reuses PVC backed carpet tile.

Carpet tile accounts for about a third of the firm’s business, and that category is dominated by ER3 backings. ER3 backed products have total recycled content of 30% to 50%, depending on the face weight of the particular product. The firm is currently working on increasing the recycled content of the backing.

Last year the firm came out with another PVC backing called Conserv, which uses 25% less material for a substantial reduction in environmental footprint.

The firm has also been a leader in reducing the impact of sample programs, and its Retrieve program of taking back and reusing or recycling architectural and sample books continues to gain traction. At NeoCon, the firm introduced greener architectural folders with digital images that can be peeled away like Post-Its, replacing physical samples.

Tandus is currently going after ISO 14001 certification at its Dalton carpet tile and six foot goods facility—the ISO 14000 series is the environmental series of the International Standards Organization. The firm is also focusing on increasing its use of biodiesel—made of disposed grease from restaurants—in its boilers.

Earlier this year, Tandus cut the water consumption in its dyeing process by one third by creating a recycling loop in its system.

In May, J&J Industries had its Dalton facility ISO 14001 certified by NSF International, the standards organization that was behind the creation of NSF 140, the sustainable carpet assessment standard. J&J’s Howard Elder, who leads the firm’s sustainability programs, was the chairman of the committee that launched the drive for the standard five years ago.

The firm’s carpet tile joint venture with Mannington, located in Calhoun, is also 14001 certified.

J&J Industries was the first carpet mill to sign up with EcoScorecard, the software program that does all the math on point contributions for the various green standards in North America. All of the J&J and Invision products are covered by EcoScorecard, including recent introductions, and as new versions of standards go live, those are updated as well.

The firm’s R4 program, which stands for Return, Reuse, Recycle, Reduce, is the core of J&J’s sustainability philosophy, and it includes a program for sending to J&J, postage paid, all samples and architectural folders, regardless of the manufacturer. Since the beginning of the year, J&J has received nearly 27,000 items through that program, of which 58% are J&J or Invision products. Samples that cannot be reused are recycled by Cross Plains Community Partners, an organization with a handicapped workforce.

Beaulieu, which produces residential and commercial broadloom, as well as commercial carpet tile, is the second biggest reuser of plastic bottles in the carpet industry. The reclaimed PET goes into residential face fiber.

Beaulieu recently conducted two independent lifecycle analyses of its use of plastic bottles and determined that it represented a 92% energy savings over using virgin material. The firm plans on getting that result third party certified.

The firm’s Nexterra carpet tile features a backing with 85% post consumer content, achieved through the use of ground glass and PET from plastic bottles, making the recycled content of the total product from 60% to 69%. Nexterra is also recyclable, and, according to the firm, the backing can be dissolved away from the fiber, creating a clean stream of nylon 6 or 6,6. 

Since the program is only three years old, the firm has not yet reclaimed Nexterra tiles, but it intends to reuse the nylon it reclaims from that product.

All of Beaulieu’s commercial carpets feature some post consumer content, either in the backing or in the face fiber. In broadloom with latex in the backing, reclaimed ground glass makes up from 5% to 20% of the backing weight.

Beaulieu recently converted its Dalton commercial facilities to 100% green energy, attaining that mark through both direct purchases of renewable energy and the purchase of renewable energy credits.

Constantine, a commercial carpet specialist, utilizes a multiple over-dyeing process that minimizes its water usage and incorporates water recycling. While the firm’s standard running line yarns have no recycled content, Constantine can replace some of the yarns with fibers containing 100% recycled content. The big news with Constantine, however, is in its carpet recycling and reclamation programs. In the manufacturing process, all cuttings, overage, shear lint, cones, etc., are recycled. 

Constantine’s CON-tinuum Reclamation Program works through Invista and Covanta. All Constantine carpets qualify regardless of the square footage or location of the installation. The contractor simply calls Constantine as the carpet is being pulled from a site and Constantine schedules a truck to pick up the carpet and transport it to the nearest Covanta or Invista recycling/reclamation facility. Constantine covers the costs associated with transporting as well as recycling the old carpet.

Mannington produces vinyl, hardwood, ceramic, laminate and commercial carpet from facilities stretching from New Jersey to Georgia, and earlier this summer the firm purchased Burke Industries, which makes rubber flooring as well as cove base and stair treads in rubber and vinyl. Burke has production facilities in Eustice, Florida and San Jose, California.

The firm increased its Loop carpet recycling program by 240% from 2006 to 2007. Some of what is reclaimed is repurposed and used in schools, and the material that cannot be directly reused goes back to Mannington, where it is recycled into carpet backing and the firm’s Relay RE resilient six foot sheet.

Relay RE contains 20% post consumer content, along with 15% post industrial, and it comes in 30 colors. The competitively priced sheet product has a layered construction, with the recycled content in the lower layers to allow for greater color range on the top.

Mannington also recycles drywall into its carpet tile backing and premium VCT. The firm used about 200 tons last year. Reclaimed drywall content in carpet tile is about 2%, and close to 1% in VCT. The firm’s carpet business is a net user of waste, as is its inlaid vinyl program. Mannington’s total vinyl program should become a net user of waste in the next year or two.

Mannington is the first firm to have products certified by the draft NSF 332 standard. Its inlaid product line, manufactured in New Jersey, is certified to the Gold level.

Universal Fibers, which partners with Interface for nylon 6,6 reuse, also produces nylon 6, solution dyed PET, and PTT. The Bristol, Virginia based firm has actually been using the same remelt and pelletizing process with post industrial material for the last decade, creating nylon 6,6 with an average post industrial content of 50%. 

The firm has the capacity to process much more than its current production, but Interface is the only company that currently provides post consumer content at the required level of purity—and that program will be expanding greatly over the next few years. Universal can actually do the same process with reclaimed nylon 6.

Universal’s nylon 6,6 remelt is part of the firm’s EarthSmart Technology sustainability platform, which includes waste minimization and reduced energy consumption.

The entire color line of Zeftron’s premium solution dyed nylon 6, called Enviro6ix, has 25% post industrial recycled content from its own reprocessed nylon waste. In addition, the product can be 100% recycled through the company’s 6ix Again program, in which the fiber is returned to caprolactam and remade into nylon 6. 

The firm’s national recycling program takes back all types of used commercial carpet from a network of collection centers. After being sorted, each piece of waste carpet will be used in some manner. Some will remain in the 6ix Again program to be recycled into new nylon 6 carpet yarn, while the rest will be used for other nylon products or heat generation. The company has just completed the cradle to cradle third party certification process through McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry, which has certified several Shaw products as well. Its nylon 6 now has silver certification from MBDC.

In March, Invista consultant Boustead Consulting & Associates completed a lifecycle assessment of its Antron commercial carpet fiber, using every manufacturing site to determine the environmental impact. The results of the eco-profiles played a key role in Invista obtaining an Environmentally Preferable Product recertification from Scientific Certification Systems this year.

Invista’s Carpet Reclamation Program can be used by anyone and the program will take any carpet. It pledges that none of it will go to a landfill. Some will be cleaned and reused, some will be reprocessed into carpet, and some will be used for a variety of other products including filtration devices, automotive parts, packaging materials and furniture. Some will also be used to produce energy. Antron fibers contain from 25% to 90% post industrial recycled content.

Solutia’s Ultron nylon 6,6 has silver certification from McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry. MBDC performed a cradle to cradle benchmarking study and certified the fiber as a Preferred Technical Nutrient, which means that it can be reused to make more Ultron. The company’s Ultron Renew product has been certified by Scientific Certification Systems to contain at least 50% post industrial content, although the company said it could contain up to 95% depending on fiber specified by the carpet mill. As a company, Solutia is committed to using alternative energy and it recently got approval for one of its Wales facilities to erect a pair of two megawatt windmills. Also, Solutia has teamed with a biodiesel company in Illinois to study the feasibility of converting an idle chlorobenzene line to soy-based biodiesel production. Solutia recently announced that it is looking for a buyer for its nylon business, so by this time next year the company may no longer be producing carpet fiber.

Aquafil in 2007 put together a comprehensive Sustainability Report as a way to measure how the company is affecting the environment and help it become more efficient in manufacturing, logistics, waste control and handling. The company noted that it produces 59.6 pounds of waste per 1,000 pounds of manufactured product, and 73% of the waste is recycled. It has also recently debuted its Econyl 75, a high performance fiber containing 75% recycled content recovered through The Aquafil Group and users of Alto Chroma BCF yarn. It contains 70% post industrial and 5% post consumer content. Aquafil said Econyl 75 also retains the high performance characteristics of Alto Chroma’s continuous filament structure, which gives it performance characteristics comparable to fiber from 100% virgin polymer.

Nylene produces nylon 6 out of its facility in Arnprior, Ontario. The firm’s Natiq white nylon features 30% post industrial content on the commercial side and 10% on the residential side. Both lines are SCS certified, as is its depolymerization facility, which dates back to 1966. The firm depolymerizes post industrial waste both from its own facility and from outside sources. 

The recent big news from Dow Chemical is its LoMax technology, which utilizes landfill gas to replace fossil fuel consumption in the production of latex carpet backings.  Basically, Dow has run a pipeline from the Dalton landfill to its latex production facility two miles away. The landfill gas is collected by a system of pipes and blowers, then piped to Dow’s facility. The process will generate 240 billion BTUs per year, reducing the CO2 emissions into the atmosphere by 27 to 30 million pounds per year.  Dow is working individually with carpet mills on how they will market the technology.

In addition, Dow has developed a thermoplastic backing material that can be used as an alternative for latex.  Dow converts plastic to a liquid that has the same viscosity as latex so carpet companies can use their same equipment. The thermoplastic backing material is easier to recycle than latex. 

Universal Textile Technologies’ widely used BioCel commercial backing contains up to 80% biobased content, and that product has now been adapted for the hospitality and high end residential markets under the EnviroCel name. Total biobased and recycled content accounts for 55% to 85% of the total backing weight, replacing 90% of the polyurethane content with soy based polyols and using Celeram, a recycled coal fly ash, as filler. In addition, EnviroCel features post consumer PET secondary backings.

The EnviroCel program features four products—EnviroCel Laminate, EnviroCel Laminate Plus, EnviroCel Cushion and EnviroCel Cushion Plus—and all but the Cushion Plus product feature an extruded fiberization adhesion layer that provides increased performance while significantly reducing the weight of the product. That layer is being developed to contain a 25% biobased component.

Flooring adhesive manufacturer W.F.Taylor’s patented Meta-Tec line of wood flooring adhesives is made exclusively from renewable bio-based oil and resins and is solvent free. The products are the only floorcovering adhesives to be awarded GreenGuard certification. The Met-Tec line is also certified by the CRI Green Label protocol. Recently introduced, Meta-Tec MS Plus is isocyanate (TDI, MDI) and solvent free. Isocyanate is the the leading cause of occupational asthma worldwide.

Last year, Armstrong, the biggest resilient and hard surface manufacturer, announced a four-pronged environmental strategy, focusing on greenhouse gases, energy, water, and responsible forest management. The firm also produces ceilings and cabinets.

On the hardwood side, the firm works with the Tropical Forest Foundation in its chain of custody and reduced impact logging program for exotic hardwoods. Exotics account for less than 5% of the firm’s hardwood production. In the U.S., the firm’s Vicksburg, Mississippi facility was FSC certified at the beginning of the year, and it offers several FSC certified products.

At last year’s GreenBuild show, the firm came out with Migrations, a bio-based tile (BBT) with performance characteristics exceeding VCT. The firm replaced the vinyl content of traditional VCT, which accounts for 14% of the mass, with a polyester compound containing polymers derived from corn. The bio-based content of the total tile is about 2%. At the same event, Armstrong unveiled its EcoScorecard program that streamlines the process of calculating contributions to flooring standards. J&J and Armstrong were the first flooring companies to sign up with EcoScorecard.

Last summer, the firm’s corporate headquarters in Lancaster, Pennsylvania was certified LEED EB Platinum. The building, called 701, is the first building outside of California to attain the Platinum level.

Tarkett, headquartered in France, is a global leader in resilient and hard surface flooring. In addition to sports flooring, its U.S. businesses include Tarkett residential vinyl and laminate, Nafco luxury vinyl tile, Azrock commercial tile, and Johnsonite, which makes a range of vinyl and rubber products.

Since 1999, the firm has reduced total organic emissions by 50% and cut water consumption by 30%. 

Over the last three years, Johnsonite has been developing products that can be reused. The firm’s ReStart program takes back a number of products, including its RePlace demountable wallbase, which can be repurposed, as well as UnderLock, a rubber floor tile locking system introduced in 2007. The Inertia and Triumph lines are available with the UnderLock system, which essentially creates a portable floor.

EcoCycle porcelain tile, introduced last year, has become one of the top requested samples in Crossville’s line of products. Crossville is also coming out with two new green products, Color Blox EC and Echo Recycled Glass, that the firm plans to launch in September with third party certification. Color Blox EC features six of the more popular colors from the Color Blox line and includes 20% post industrial recycled content. Echo Recycled Glass uses a mix of post consumer and post industrial content ranging from 10% to 100%, depending on the color.

Almost 100% of the water consumed by the firm is filtered and reused, thanks to its sophisticated water filtration system. Any water not reused leaves the facility cleaner than when it entered.

Forbo Flooring Systems uses lifecycle assessment (LCA) to look at its overall impact on the environment. An internally managed program called “field to field” looks at the entire process of manufacturing, beginning in the fields with the flax farmers, who are educated on programs like crop rotation and ways to minimize use of fertilizers. Field to field continues through the manufacturing process to the composting of scrap and waste materials. When old floors are removed, they are ground with yard waste to create compost that can be returned to the earth.

Forbo recently published its Sustain Brochure, which informs consumers on green issues, discussing labels, certifications and standards, LEED, lifecycle assessments and more. 

Dodge-Regupol renamed itself Ecore International at the beginning of the year and has since taken $29 million in equity funding from Element Partners of Philadelphia. The company uses 80 million pounds of scrap tire rubber every year, enough to heat 60,000 homes annually. 

Ecore’s EcoSurfaces flooring, which is formaldehyde free, is largely made up of 100% rubber from old tires, and the color portion is made from EPDM with 30% post industrial waste. The company said no heat is used in the production process, which also requires little water. The product comes in a variety of looks, in both 4’ rolls and 36” and 18” tiles. 

Ecore also offers its own zero-VOC adhesive called E-Grip III. The firm’s products can contribute to numerous LEED points for air quality, regional materials, recycled materials, and waste management. The EcoSurfaces products are also completely recyclable.

Alloc laminate flooring is composed of 80% recycled content, mostly from sawdust and wood scrapings. The firm sends none of its waste to landfill. The virgin wood it uses is also certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. The products can be recycled by detaching the aluminum locking parts and grinding up the boards. The products can contribute to LEED points in materials and air quality categories. Alloc is ISO 14001 certified for environmental management.

Last November, Amtico achieved GreenGuard indoor air quality certification for its Amtico, Arteca, Stratica and Spacia resilient flooring products. In addition, the company’s Stratica products are chlorine and plasticizer free, made from 20% post industrial waste, and have no detectable VOC emissions.  

Roppe, which manufactures rubber flooring tiles, wallbase and stair treads, recently published an eco-effects brochure as a reference for specifiers who are looking for  LEED point information for Roppe’s environmentally friendly products. Each of Roppe’s product categories is listed in this booklet along with the LEED credits to which they contribute.

Under the direction of its new technical director, Garth Gaffney, Centiva is making major environmental changes to its operation. On the manufacturing side, Centiva has installed skylights, converted to high efficiency fluorescent lighting, added a closed loop water filtration system, and is completely reengineering its process layout for improved labor efficiencies. And from a certification standpoint, the company has achieved SCS and Floor Score certification and is working on GreenGuard air quality certification and ISO-14001 environmental certification.

On the recycling side, Centiva is in the early stages of setting up a network of recyclers and plans to initiate a 1-800 take back program.­ Already in place is a program whereby Centiva will take back any used vinyl flooring on any project over 8,000 square feet in the continental U.S. regardless of the manufacturer—as long as Centiva products are specified as the replacement floorcovering.

All of the products in Centiva’s three lines—Contour, Victory and Event—feature both post industrial and post consumer content. Contour heterogeneous vinyl has 18.7% post industrial content and 2% post consumer content from roofing and pool membranes as well as post consumer vinyl wrap, and it all goes on the bottom layer. The firm’s 24 month goal is 24% post industrial and 10% post consumer content.

Victory is a homogeneous product that comes in two forms. The double layer form features the same post industrial and post consumer content as Contour, with the recycled content on the bottom layer. The single layer form uses post consumer chips from pool membranes for 8% post consumer content, and the 24 month goal is to add 15% post industrial content. Event, manufactured in Japan, features 28% post industrial content and 4% post consumer content that includes recycled vinyl flooring.

In addition, last month all Centiva products were FloorScore certified by Scientific Certification Systems.

Altro, which supplies the North American market with safety flooring made in the U.K. now features on most of its products 10% post consumer content from lead free glass wine bottles. In addition, the firm has purchased equipment for in-house post consumer recycling of safety flooring and is currently working out the logistics of using reclaimed flooring in its products.

FSC chain-of-custody certification is still not that common in the wood flooring industry, but demand for the certification is increasing. One firm that just came out with an FSC certified wood line is Wood Flooring International. Last month, the firm’s Tesoro Woods brand came out with the Eco Floor Series Collection that features 33 SKUs, including the Monteverde Collection of exotic woods like orosi, Salinas cherry and saddlewood.


For many people, sustainability is synonymous with environmentalism, and most of the sustainability initiatives we read about are focused on green initiatives like recycling, clean air and efficient use of natural resources. However, going green is in fact only one aspect of sustainability, which is composed of three intersecting spheres--social sustainability, environmental sustainability and economic sustainability--together creating a stable and enduring model for humanity's role on the planet. The intersection of environmental and economic programs should be viable; the intersection of economic and social programs should be equitable; and the intersection of social and environmental programs should be bearable. 

This view of sustainability goes beyond the concept that we as humans need to take care of nature to a broader, more comprehensive perspective--we are nature.

Companies striving for sustainability focus not only on reducing their environmental footprint, but also on maintaining a profitable profile, providing a good life and sense of purpose for their workforce, and benefiting all the communities they impact. For manufacturers this means benefiting the populations in the regions that provide the raw materials to the regions where the companies are based and the communities of their customer base.

Most of the producers in the flooring industry offer a range of social and economic sustainability programs, and here's a closer look at some of the more notable ones.

Interface Inc., for example, says in its vision statement that the company's aim is to improve the quality of life for all its stakeholders, and it does this by providing learning and development programs for its associates and by getting involved in its local communities. One noteworthy example of Interface's focus on people is its Dash program in LaGrange, Georgia, which is designed to both help its employees secure housing and also revitalize a neighborhood within the local community. Through this program, Interface actively assists its employees in obtaining a mortgage and then provides remodel assistance through volunteer teams or product donations.

Fostoria, Ohio based Roppe Corporation is another manufacturer that invests heavily in the well being of its employees and in its local community. As a privately owned company, Roppe uses task oriented pay rates and work teams to reward its employees and incentivize productivity. And during the summer, job openings are offered to its employees' children and grandchildren while on break from school. The company also offers scholarships to those same children from funds earned through its recycling program.

However, the program that really stands out at Roppe is the Seneca Re-Ads workshop. This facility provides individuals with mental retardation and developmental disabilities a sheltered place to work producing Roppe's sample chains and other sales support materials. Each day the lives of nearly 100 special needs workers are given a purpose as they are compensated to organize multicolored samples on a chain or stamp specification information on a sample swatch.

Beaulieu Commercial is another organization that recognizes that the relationship it has with its employees and its community is critical to its success. According to the firm's general manager, James Lesslie, you cannot be truly tuned into the environment without putting some focus on how you interact with others. The company has put structure and discipline around four social and interactive components of its relationship with its employees: embrace change (try new things), respect (each other and the environment), balance (between your work and personal life), and have fun (having fun is essential to being creative).

Shaw Industries acknowledges in a recent sustainability focused issue of its employee newspaper that "there is really nothing greener than taking care of ourselves and others." Last year, the company and its employees raised over $1.8 million for the local United Way campaign. And recognizing that an increasing number of employees have a Hispanic heritage, the company recently initiated a corporate diversity program that embraces attributes and contributions of all employees.

In Bentley Prince Street's quest to give back to its community in Los Angeles, the company has formed an alliance with the Delhaven Community Center--a nonprofit organization that helps find fulfilling work for mentally challenged citizens. Bentley provides jobs for these people taking yarn ends off its package spools and segregating its old sample cards for reclamation. Whenever the center hosts an activity like cleaning up a local park, BPS's employees are first in line to volunteer.

J&J Industries similarly combines social and environmental sustainability through an alliance with Cross Plains Community Partners, a North Georgia organization of people with developmental disabilities, for its recycling of samples and architectural folders.

As businesses become more enlightened, programs like these are no longer viewed as "the company giving back." Instead, they reflect an understanding that a company is more than its products, and even more than its workforce. Rather, it's part of the eco-system of the vast world we share.




Copyright 2008 Floor Focus 

Related Topics:Tarkett, Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, Mannington Mills, Mohawk Industries, Armstrong Flooring, Carpet and Rug Institute, Roppe, Interface, Shaw Industries Group, Inc., Crossville, Beaulieu International Group